Chromecast & the Battle for the Living Room
Google broke streaming TV price barriers with its launch of the US$35 Chromecast dongle on July 25. Sales figures haven't yet been revealed but the units are back-ordered and sold out everywhere, at least giving the impression of extensive demand. (See Chrome Cuts: Refurb Apple TVs Drop to $75.)
The device plugs directly into the HDMI port on a TV and streams Netflix video and other video content over Wi-Fi. Users can use a Chrome browser, Android or iOS device as a remote control.
Greg Ireland, research manager for multi-screen video at IDC, suggests that the accessibility of the new device for the average consumer will likely make it a threat to cable TV operators and could encourage more cord-cutters over time. "There's a threat in so far that's it's available at such a low price; in a sense it's the ultimate impulse purchase," Ireland says.
He's not sure, however, that Chromecast buyers will all be new to the streaming video game and may be supplementing a Roku box or Apple TV. "It's a great device to add to your second, third or fourth viewing location," Ireland suggests.
In the end it will be the content that determines whether Google gains a foothold against cable TV providers and its streaming rivals. The search giant started with Netflix and its own YouTube content available for streaming. Now Google is working with HBO, Hulu and Pandora to bring more content to the streaming service.
Google, however, doesn't have to just rely on third parties for audio and video, Ireland suggests. "The wild card is what content Google will bring," the analyst says.
Google hasn't been known for in-house content other than providing a platform for users -- and an at attempt at more professional channels -- on its YouTube video service. As the recent Emmy Nominations for Netflix show, a streaming service can become a content provider to be reckoned with.
Certainly, Ireland notes Google is "thinking creatively" in terms of how to price and deliver streaming TV compared to its earlier expensive effort to crack the market. Ireland says this could mean getting creative with how it bundles the inexpensive dongle with the Android smartphones and tablets that can be used as a remote control interface for the streaming service.
"We could very well see it bundled with an Android phone," Ireland says. He suggests that tablets will "work naturally in conjunction" with the service for tasks such as show scheduling.
However Google's Chromecast gambit plays out, Ireland says, the company has one big goal in making these bold moves into streaming TV and beyond: "They want to extend consumption of Google content in the living room."
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile